America’s fourth largest cable provider, Charter Communications, announced today it will buy the country’s second largest cable provider, Time Warner Cable, in a deal valued at $56.7 billion in cash and stock.
Charter is also acquiring Bright House Networks, the nation’s sixth largest cable company, for another $10.4 billion.
The combination would create a new cable behemoth that would serve 23.9 million customers in 41 states.
In a statement likely aimed at regulators, Tom Rutledge, president and chief executive of Charter Communications, promised the new combination would result in many benefits for consumers, including faster rollout of higher-speed broadband.
“With our larger reach, we will be able to accelerate the deployment of faster Internet speeds, state-of-the-art video experiences, and fully featured voice products, at highly competitive prices,” Rutledge said in the statement. “In addition, we will drive greater competition through further deployment of new competitive facilities-based Wi-Fi networks in public places, and the expansion of the facilities footprint of optical networks to serve the large, small and medium-sized business services marketplace.”
The move marks the second attempt by Charter to buy TWC, and it follows the thwarted bid by rival Comcast, which saw its $45 billion bid recently thwarted by regulators. While any regulatory review could take months, it seems clear that cable consolidation is inevitable as viewers’ habits shift in the digital age.
The latest offer values each Time Warner Cable share at approximately $195.71.
Charter, Time Warner and Bright House will be rolled into a new parent company called New Charter. Under the complex cash and stock terms of the deal, current Time Warner shareholders will actually own between 40 percent and 44 percent of New Charter.
Liberty Broadband, overseen by telecom titan John Malone, would own between approximately 19 percent and 20 percent of New Charter.
Charter has been on the dance floor with TWC before. It tried to buy out the larger cable provider in early 2014, but TWC wanted more money. Then Comcast stepped in with its $45 billion to buy TWC.
When regulators stopped that deal in April on antitrust grounds, the door to tie-up between Charter and TWC opened wide. Charter is determined not to miss its chance this time.
In the background is the looming threat of over-the-top video offerings from Netflix, Amazon, and, perhaps, soon Apple, which continue to pull subscribers away from pay TV players. Analysts expect a good deal of consolidation in the space as pay TV providers try to lessen their dependence on video subscribers.
Cable operators have become far more reliant on broadband sales in recent years. Video is a tough business. One one hand, video content owners like the NFL and Viacom constantly demand more for their content. On the other, cable companies can squeeze only so much more from (already price-sensitive) subscribers to cover the extra cost.